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Page last updated at 06:19 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 07:19 UK

Tiger Vesty finally finds his feet

Sam Vesty celebrates his try in the play-off win over Bath
Vesty leads the celebrations after his try in the semi-final play-off win over Bath

Sam Vesty is dreaming of a trophy-laden end to the season and England recognition only months after thinking his Leicester Tigers career was over.

Fly-half Vesty has been instrumental in Leicester's drive to the Premiership and Heineken Cup finals.

But the versatile back, 27, told BBC Radio Leicester he tried to quit the club he loves earlier in the season.

"I didn't want to leave but it was a forced decision. I wasn't playing and felt like a gym monkey," Vesty said.

"I was in the gym every day and that was about it.

"I even asked (previous coach) Heyneke Meyer if he would let me out of the last year of my contract because I wanted to play rugby."

But Vesty he got a chance to stake his claim thanks to a change of coach and a change in style of play, as well as injuries and international call-ups, and he has flourished since forcing his way into the team in February.

He has playing a pivotal role at either fly-half and inside centre, with his all-round ability helping the Tigers to reach Saturday's showpiece Premiership final against London Irish.

A Heineken Cup final against Leinster at Murrayfield awaits the following week, and Vesty is chuffed to be first choice after years of playing the nearly man.

With Toby Flood out injured, Vesty is expected to start at fly-half against the Exiles at Twickenham, and he is revelling in the limelight.

Sam Vesty
Vesty has shown his versatility both on and off the pitch

"Just to be starting is the main thing because I've sat on the bench a few times in finals," he said. "To start at 10 in such a massive game is a lot more responsibility and I'm enjoying it."

Vesty has followed in his father, grandfather and great-grandfather's footsteps by playing for Leicester.

The talented Tigers Academy product has never really been an automatic first choice at Welford Road.

But Vesty has still racked up nearly 250 appearances for the club since making his debut in the 2002-2003 season.

He has been a key squad member and often played a vital role when international call-ups and injuries have stretched the squad.

And as if the domestic success was not enough, Vesty is also being tipped by many to earn an international call-up this summer - England play two Tests against Argentina and have a warm-up match against the Barbarians.

Vesty has already won representative honours with England at Under-18 and Under-21 level and also with the England Saxons.

The fly-half's form has seemingly alerted England coaches - and former Leicester team-mates - Martin Johnson and John Wells.

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Tigers colleague Flood is injured and with Wasps' Danny Cipriani struggling to find his best form, the fly-half berth is up for grabs.

"I'd truly love a chance to play for England, but whether it happens is out of my control," said Vesty.

"I'm just going to play as well as I can in the next two games whether it's at 10 or 12.

"I am happy with my form. Over the last 10 or 12 weeks I've played every week and I've got better. I'm taking the ball to the line, I'm making breaks and I'm distributing OK as well."

Vesty can play at fly-half, inside centre or full-back and he believes his versatility - which many thought has previously counted against him earning a regular Tigers spot - has played a big part in his development.

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"I started my career playing at 10 and was I probably a little bit immature at a young age," he said.

"But then I moved to different positions and I think that has helped me immensely in getting a different perspective on the game.

"I think I have matured into a better 10 as time has gone on and now I think I am a better player for having done the rounds in the different positions."

Having finished as runners-up in both domestic competitions in the 2007-08 season, and three of the past four Premiership finals, Leicester are determined to improve on their recent finals record, starting on Saturday.

"It's about time we were the bride and not the bridesmaid," Vesty said.

You can hear full match commentary of the Premiership final between Leicester Tigers and London Irish on BBC Radio Leicester 104.9FM and DAB, as well as online at bbc.co.uk/leicester



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